It's easy to stay focused on oneself in the constant rush to be at the top of your game (whatever game that may be.) My game is the wine game and I've spent the last several months relentlessly building a wine education business here in Jacksonville. After looking back on some of the strides I've made, I realize my focus has been on my goals, my dreams, and my success. It seems to me, I'm using the word "my" far too much.
I came to Jacksonville to contribute something positive to the rising tide of wine culture. However, if I didn't get to know and join forces with the sommeliers around me, it would prove to be a fruitless pursuit. Thus,"Notes on a Somm" was born.
Every month, I want to take some time to get to know a sommelier working with wine in Jacksonville. The way I see it, learning from another's experiences, perspectives, and passions can only lead to a greater appreciation of wine.
Kriss Reed was one the first people to race into my mind when I thought of sommeliers I had recently met in Jacksonville. I could immediately feel his passion for wine.
He has worked as a manager at Royal Palm Wine and Tapas for two years. Previously, he served as a wine consultant at ABC Fine Wine and Spirits. A native Southern Californian, he has lived in Ponte Vedra Beach for 10 years with his wife, Daisy, and their two black cats, Jim J. and Carville. Though he enjoys the sheer variety of wine grapes, his favorites are Nebbiolo and Chenin Blanc. After learning his story, I knew I wanted him to share his thoughts about being a sommelier with me. Here's what Kriss had to say...
I came late in the game to alcohol, not really drinking until the tail end of college, but the spark was lit by a professor in my California history course who spent a couple of classes on the origins of the wine industry there. Fast forward a few years to when a friend and coworker moonlighted at an Italian restaurant that hosted wine dinners. After attending a few of those, my oenophile bona fides were in place.
What is the most challenging part of working in the wine/restaurant industry?
Knowledge is a constantly moving target. Mastering it all is pure folly. Once you think you’ve learned it all, there have been changes in one or more regions or industry trends. It just so happens that I enjoy the educational pursuit.
What keeps you motivated to work with wine?
Creating epiphanies for my guests and customers. It’s so gratifying to see their reactions to a great pairing or a wine they’ve never tried which becomes a new favorite.
Do you have a time where you truly impacted someone using wine?
Listening is key here. My job is to listen to my customers and provide solutions based on what they tell me. I once had a customer tell me that they didn’t like wine, only beer and cocktails. I asked what they didn’t like about wine, and what they did about the other drinks, and was able to introduce them to the first wines they ever enjoyed based on shared characteristics with their favored drinks.
A Sommelier's definition seems to be changing everyday. How do you define it?
I am a wine evangelist. My job is to help a customer develop a personal relationship with wine that suits their needs, listening and counseling when asked, not bullying them with my own knowledge and preferences, and hopefully imbuing them with a bit of the same passion I have for the grape!
Getting the chance to hear Kriss's thoughts on wine truly made me appreciate working with it even more. Every sommelier has their own story concerning wine and their own unique reason it means the world to them. I find most of the time, especially with Kriss, it involves connecting with others. Seeing something you love through another's eyes makes it substantially more meaningful. I will always have "my" pursuits with wine. However, I believe my work will have far greater reach if I keep other passionate wine professionals by my side and strive to achieve "our" shared goals.